Travel Guide

3 Tips for Renting a Car in Europe

boston marathon travel
Written by Charlie

If you are heading to Europe and want to get around on your own, here are 3 tips for renting a car in Europe. Getting the best price does not always equal getting the best deal when it comes to rental cars! Being informed could save you some headaches.

With the Euro finally starting to come down and summer in Europe being what it is, there will be many tourists heading to various countries throughout Europe soon! Many of those tourists will be renting cars to set their own pace and direction. If that is you, there are 3 tips for renting a car in Europe to make sure you get the best deal – not necessarily the cheapest price.

3 Tips for Renting a Car in Europe

Tip 1 – Watch Out for Fuel Policy

When you use a car rental website that searches multiple agencies, make sure you check what the fuel policy is! The best policies are those that are full/full – that means you rent the car with a full tank and return it with a fuel tank. This is what most Americans are familiar with.

tips for renting a car in europe

Check for the fuel policy for the rental cars in Europe!

But, you may find a cheaper rental car and notice it says something different, Pre-Purchase (partial refund). Anything with this kind of fuel policy will likely come with a rental rate that is much cheaper than other cars. Here is what that means:

tips for renting cars in europe

It is mostly some lower cost car rental companies in Europe that operate this way. If you ask for specifics at the counter, be aware that the agent may not understand you or may give you incorrect information. Such was a situation with me and Record Go in Mallorca a couple of years ago.

Tip 2 – Go With Larger Companies

tips renting cars in europe

Stick with the larger, more reputable car rental companies

This one will likely cost you a bit more but it could really save you a lot in the end. While some local companies may be decent, my experience with car rental companies in Europe is that I am always better off going with the larger agencies like Avis, Sixt, Hertz, etc. Not only do many of those recognize your elite status within their company (which can mean larger cars, better service, etc) but they are far less likely to pull any moves that could cost you money.

Insurance Shenanigans

Many low cost car rental companies do hard sells on insurance (in the US like the pretty bad Payless) so it should not come as a surprise to you in Europe. However, remember that you credit card rental policy may require a police report that is not always easy to come by in some countries!

Some of these companies take advantage of that difficulty in obtaining reports by charging exorbitant rates for insurance. It can make a car that costs just $5 per day cost $40 per day! I have seen some very shady tactics at some of these companies so I try to avoid them and stick with the larger, more well-known companies – even if it costs more. Sometimes, it is very much a pay-now-or-pay-later scenario.

Condition of Vehicle

Another reason to go with larger companies is with the condition of vehicles. Some of the cheaper rental companies do not do maintenance very well on the vehicles or they are much older than regular rental vehicles.

I rented a vehicle in Jordan one time that was old, rickety, and burned oil like crazy. I would have been better off renting something for an extra $50 – 80 that would have been more reliable!

Tip 3 – Look Away From Airports

cheapest car rental

There are large fees and taxes for airport locations

This tip works in the US as well but this could be a huge cost saver in Europe! There are some very high airport fees for rental car companies in larger cities. Not only that, but the companies may charge quite a bit more since they know it is more convenient for customers.

The best thing would be to use Uber or public transportation to get to the city and then use a city location for a rental car. I have found some prices in various cities to be much less than airport locations. Not only that, you could also avoid tolls on roads that go to/from airports in some cities.

Select Days Needed

If you are visiting a city for a few days, you may be fine on foot or with public transportation for a couple of days. By choosing to rent a vehicle away from the airport, you can avoid the parking fees (which can be VERY high!) for the days you are in the city. Then, grab a vehicle for the days you want to get out and explore.


Of course, there are other tips as well that we are all familiar with – like using a credit card that gives you primary rental insurance (but make sure that country is covered) and making sure you get your International Driver’s Permit before heading overseas but I decided to highlight the above 3 tips for rental cars in Europe to help you on your European vacation this summer.

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.


  • Especially in Germany, be very careful about damage to the car. Mark everything. Surprisingly, Hertz in Germany is a stickler about damage. They were going to charge me for a tiny scratch but, luckily, there was a damage sticker in the trunk that marked that scratch. I’ve heard others complain of the same thing on another forum, flyertalk. com

  • I found that if you use a credit card with primary coverage some countries/rental agencies require a letter from the cc company stating what the coverage is and that you are the card holder. It’s in the fine print under the T and C. The 2 countries I am familiar with Costa Rica/Avis and Ireland/Europcar. Not sure if it’s company or country mandated.

  • Another tip is that even the American companies like Hertz and Avis take the cleaning fee seriously.

    I’ve never been charged cleaning fees in the States even for a lot of dirt in the interior or the exterior but even a bit of dirt and grass on the carpet often won’t fly in UK or Germany. They’ll charge you the full cleaning fee + VAT on it for $60USD or so.

  • Watch Eurocar for currency conversion fees even when you directly ask to pay in USD and do so at the terminal. They have some flat fee type charges for this that are very hard to avoid even when you are super careful.
    Certain countries are very tough on tire or mirror damage claims. Ireland is one. I suggest Dooley there. Israel can also be bad. I’ve had good luck with Hertz there though.

  • One thing I forgot. Watch fueling carefully. Example is that diesel pumps in the USA are commonly green while in other countries they aren’t marked and green or yellow pumps don’t mean they are the same. Do some research on this and make sure you know the fuel type you are dealing with.

  • Very useful article!
    The fuel policy part was eye-opening. And the other info is usefule even outside Europe.
    As far as airports though, I’d say look in town AND at the airport locations. Shopping around always helps. Admitedly the following are not examples from Europe, but it’s worth considering:
    1) I recently found a better price at the airport location than others in-town from the same company (not Europe, SFO).
    2) 2 years ago I found an airport location (again not Europe, BGR) charging WAY more than the other location and took a look at the 2 addresses; they were THE SAME ;-o Since I rented from the other location I got a BMW 528i X-drive for half the price of the cheapest offering from the ‘airport’ location. We still got to use the (call-to-request) airport shuttle van, so there was no service difference.